Best Regular Season Record Overrated
The secret about the NBA is that the team with the best regular season record is rarely the best team. There are many different reasons for this, which I will discuss in this article. We're all competing for information these days, so we rush to make judgments based on a game or two in the middle of January. The bottom line is in the last 10 years; only 2 teams with the best regular season record went on to win the NBA Championship.
People don't like to hear it, but NBA players aren't motivated to give maximum effort in every single game. People compare them to college players and become upset at the fact that they're not always giving full effort. Well, college players have around 30 regular season games, whereas NBA players play 82. The NBA game is more up-tempo and takes a larger toll on your body. There's even a term called the "Rookie Wall", which is when rookies are becoming extremely fatigued and their bodies are wearing down. They're not used to the workload.
Teams with younger stars are more likely to give their max effort for more games during the year, basically because they can. When you've been in the league a couple years, and your 22, 23, 24 years old, you can get up for more games in the regular season. You just want to play. A team with a larger number of veteran players can't necessarily do that, and they know that they don't really need to. They've been there before and know what it takes to win in the playoffs. As long as they get a decent seed, the regular season doesn't mean much to them. Look at this year, the 2012 season, for example. The teams with the best records are the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder. The key players for those teams: Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Loul Deng and Joakim Noah. All of them are in their early 20's and none of them have made the Finals yet. Both teams lost in the playoffs last year to more experienced teams.
In certain situations, a lot of teams view rest as more important than winning a regular season game or two. You're going to hold players out longer, to ensure they come back healthy, rather than risk them in a regular season game. If you have a team that on paper can make a run in the post season, you want them as healthy as possible entering the playoffs. Teams are willing to sacrifice a couple of wins for that.
Been There Before
For teams that have either won a championship, or have been to the NBA Finals, they know what it takes to get there. They know how to navigate through the regular season, and realize that those results don't ultimately matter. You're judged by what you do in the playoffs. If you've never been there before, you don't have that knowledge. You're just trying to win as many games as possible.
It may be unpopular to say, but NBA regular season results rarely dictate what happens come playoff time. Sure, a team would rather have home court advantage instead of playing on the road. But when you know you're good, and have proven it in the past, you don't care where you play. You have the confidence and the experience to go anywhere and win. Only 2 teams in the last 10 years have had the best regular season NBA record and went on the win the NBA Finals.